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Kicking off its 22nd season, the NASCAR Camping World Series East will feature a combination of new and old. The historic, 63-year-old Greenville-Pickens Speedway will host the season opener — An American Revolution 150 presented by Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet — this Saturday. It is the third consecutive year the series has opened at the venerable South Carolina facility.
The series will feature a new look, though, as it enters its first year under the sponsorship banner of Camping World, America’s largest RV and outdoor retailer. In the offseason, Camping World took over the entitlement of the longstanding Grand National Division, bringing the Busch East and former Winston West under the umbrella of one nationwide sponsor.
There will be plenty of new faces on the track, too. The series continues to enjoy an influx of talented NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team development drivers. Most notable is 18-year-old Austin Dillon, son of former NASCAR driver Mike Dillon and grandson of NASCAR championship winning team owner Richard Childress.
Dillon will be surrounded by plenty of knowledge and experience. He will drive the No. 3 for Andy Santerre Motorsports. Not only is Santerre a former four-time series champion as a driver, the second driver for ASM is last year’s third-place finisher Peyton Sellers. Sellers, 24, was the 2005 NASCAR Whelen All American Series national champion and 2007 NASCAR Camping World Series West Rookie of the Year.
A pair of development drivers Marc Davis (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Jeffrey Earnhardt (Dale Earnhardt Inc.) have title aspirations entering their sophomore seasons. Davis would like nothing better than to follow in JGR teammate Joey Logano’s footsteps and bring J.D. Gibbs another championship trophy. DEI will feature three teams: Earnhardt, Drive For Diversity member Jesus Hernandez, and Trevor Bayne.
Series veterans Matt Kobyluck and Bryon Chew are also championship contenders. Kobyluck kept pace with Logano for much of the year before late-season misfortune dropped him to fourth in points. It was the third straight season Kobyluck finished in the top five.
There will be an abundance of competition. More than 60 teams have reserve car numbers for 2008, with more than half anticipating full schedule efforts. Forty cars are entered for Greenville-Pickens.
More than a dozen drivers of them are expected to register for Sunoco Rookie of the Year eligibility. Among them is motorcross legend Ricky Carmichael, who will team with Jamie Hayes with Ken Schrader Racing. Hayes was eighth in points last year as a rookie.
Among other notables are Steve Park, who has wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series, and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and Rogelio Lopez, who became the first Mexican-born driver to win on an oval course in the series with his win at Nashville last year.
In addition to historic tracks such as Greenville-Pickens, South Boston (Va.) Speedway, Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway and Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Camping World Series East will share three NASCAR national series weekends and return to one of America’s most prestigious road courses in 2008. Other highlights of the 13 event schedule include a return to the Rusty Wallace-designed Iowa Speedway that drew a sell-out crowd of more than 25,000 last year.
The series returns to Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International after a three year hiatus from the 2.45-mile road course. Kobyluck has been the most successful NASCAR Camping World Series East road course driver in the interim, winning twice and finishing second on the Lime Rock Park road course in Lakeville, Conn. The Watkins Glen event is scheduled for June 8, while the Lime Rock Park event is set for August 16.